5 Moves to Build a Better Backside
By LISA REED
Girls just want to have buns, but many of us sit down all day at work, which actually deactivates our glutes and creates more tension in the front of our hips. Not to worry! Performing specific glute-activation exercises before your workout will allow the glutes to fire first to help you get a gorgeous backside.
As you work your glutes, you can't forget about the hamstrings. Both the glutes and the hamstrings are powerful hip extensors, so healthier hamstrings means better activation of your glutes. When you perform a glute-focused workout, you want to incorporate exercises with the knee fixed and the knee extended.
Equipment needed: barbell or body bar, dumbbell, tennis ball.
First, you need to warm up your glutes:
Cook Single-Leg Glute-Hip Bridge
This excellent warm-up exercise to activate your glutes and hamstrings is a variation on the traditional glute bridge. You won't be able to lift your hips as high with this variation.
Pulling your knee to your chest allows you take the lower back out of the movement, which will isolate your glutes and hamstrings.
[Read More: How to Fire Up Your Core]
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place a tennis ball just below your ribs on your left side and bring your left knee up to your chest to hold the tennis ball in place. The focus of your right foot should be on the heel, with your toes raised. While keeping the tennis ball tight against your body, lift your hips. Perform two sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.
Single-Leg Squat and Touch
This is a great exercise to work your glutes in a functional way by isolating each glute individually.
Stand on your left foot with a dumbbell in your right hand; your right leg should be slightly bent with the foot a few inches off the ground. Keeping your torso straight, lean forward to touch the dumbbell to the toes of your left foot. As you lean forward, your hips should move back and down, almost as if you're curtsying. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
Now that your glutes are warm, let's work them out!
1. Squat Jumps
Squats are the number-one exercise for burning fat, increasing lean muscle, shaping your glutes and improving your mobility, balance and strength. Adding in the jump/power element to the traditional squat will improve total-body strength.
Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and move your hips back and down into a squat, swinging your arms back as the same time. From that squat position explode up, arms swinging forward as you extend your hips to jump. Land softly on your toes then to your heels.
For the advanced version, add a dumbbell in each hand. Instead of swinging your arms back and forth as you jump, keep them extended straight down at your sides. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.
2. Split Squat
This is a great, simple exercise for developing single-leg strength. My method of performing the split squat focuses on the front-leg/glute muscles, and the back leg should feel a slight hip-flexor stretch, but should not be taking the load.
This position forces one glute to work more than the other. Because of the balance factor (which also stimulates your abs), split squats are amazing for shaping, defining and conditioning your glutes.
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Stand facing away from a step or box that is four inches off the ground and place the ball of your right foot on the step. Your left leg should be several steps in front of the right foot, as if you were performing a lunge. Lower down on your left leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor, then return to the start.
For more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Perform three sets of 12 repetitions per leg.
3. Single-Leg Romanian Dead Lift
(Use a body bar or barbell.) In addition to working your glutes, this exercise works your hamstrings and enhances balance. It will also improve your hamstring flexibility and strength and work your hip rotators to help prevent injury. Proper form is crucial, so make sure you watch the video below.
To start, hold the body bar down in front of your thighs with your arms straight and your hands at the farthest ends of the bar. With a slight bend in your right leg, slowly hinge forward at the waist while keeping your back straight and lowering your arms/bar down.
As you hinge forward at the waist, lift your left leg back and up, keeping it in line with your torso. At the finish position, your torso and left leg should be parallel to the ground and forming a straight line from your head to your left foot. You will feel tension in your hamstrings. The goal is to have the bar as close to your body as possible without losing the neutral spine position. Return to the start position. Perform three sets of eight repetitions on each leg.
Check out all the moves in this video:
Readers -- Do you incorporate any of the moves described above in your workout? What are your favorite exercises to work and tone your glutes? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator, motivator and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C., area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida.